For most of the past four decades, large swathes of Afghanistan have been a war zone, fought over by the Mujahideen against the Soviet Union, and the Taliban against a US-led NATO alliance.
However, for two women who have spent many years in the country during their extraordinary - but very different - careers, Afghanistan is a place of wonder.
Nasreen Sattar, who became the CEO of Standard Chartered Bank in Afghanistan in 2007, and Ameerah Haq, the former United Nations under-secretary-general who served two terms in the volatile country in the late 1970s and 2000s, both said they had found the Afghan people “loving, caring and affectionate”.
They made such observations during a discussion on “Kabul in Our Hearts”, moderated by international banker Salahdin Imam at The Cosmic Tent in Dhaka Lit Fest 2017 on Friday.
“Despite the volatile security situation and challenges in the workplace, I saw the brighter side of Afghanistan and fell in love with it during my stay there,” said Nasreen, who authored an account of her time in the conflict-torn country, called “My Kabul Story”.
“Afghanistan is magical… I fell in love with their people, their food, roses and many things. People are so loving and nice there… If you visit the place once, you will have to go back there again.”
Ameerah Haq recalled her surprise at being reassigned to Kabul for the first time in 1978, from her posting in Indonesia.
“I wondered why I had received the telex to go to Afghanistan but after going there, I fell in love with them,” she said.
“There is a deep sense of loyalty and love that Afghans have and it flows into your heart once you become familiar with them. The feeling of safety and security is provided by the country’s people.”